Food packaging contains potentially harmful compounds

Food packaging contains potentially harmful compounds

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"Our study is the most comprehensive assessment of how common fluorinated chemicals are in fast food wrappers in the USA, and which types of wrappers are most likely to contain them", said lead study author Laurel Schaider of the Silent Spring Institute in Newton, Massachusetts.

In addition to fast food packaging, the chemicals were also found in microwave popcorn and pizza boxes.

Moreover, as co-author David Andrews explained to me, the fluorine screening can also understate actual PFC presence, since some samples that came through the screen as negative for fluorine later tested positive for one or more PFCs, including some varieties that are no longer manufactured in the US and have been banned from food-contact packaging.

Testing on the entire suite of perfluorinated chemicals shows evidence of harm at ever-lower levels.

Even if PFASs are phased out, researchers say they can still make their way into our bodies, either through the use of recycled materials or through accumulation in landfills, which could seep into groundwater.

"Limiting our current exposures should be regarded a public health priority."-Phillippe Grandjean, Harvard University "Limiting our current exposures should be regarded a public health priority", added Grandjean, who was not involved in the study". They tested more than 400 samples from restaurants around the country, finding almost half of fast food wrappers had detectable levels of these chemicals that may pose health risks. Some of the businesses with products tested in the study include Taco Bell, Dunkin' Donuts, Starbucks, and McDonalds. But the study showed both respondents had tested positive for a substantial amount of fluorinated chemicals, leading researchers to believe that some chains may be unaware of what's in their packaging.

The restaurants were in or around Boston, Seattle, Washington DC, San Francisco, and Grand Rapids, Mich. None of the others contained any fluorine at all. The trouble is these fluorinated chemicals have also been linked to an increased risk of certain cancers, hormone problems, high cholesterol, obesity and immune suppression in human and animal studies.

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) are highly persistent synthetic chemicals, some of which have been associated with cancer, developmental toxicity, immunotoxicity, and other health effects. Researchers found that 46% of food contact papers and 20% of paperboard samples contained detectable fluorine ( 16 nmol/cm2).

"I was very surprised to find these chemicals in food contact materials from so numerous samples we tested", said Graham Peaslee, a physicist at the University of Notre Dame who developed an innovative new technique called PIGE that rapidly screens materials for the presence of fluorinated chemicals.

Schaider and colleagues more closely examined 20 samples to tease out exactly what fluorinated compounds they had. Paper cups were the only packages to test negative for fluorinated chemicals.

Production of long-chain PFASs was phased out in the USA from 2000-2015.

Earlier scientific works have suggested that PFASs can actually leach from the wrapper into the food that people eat. The two most common compounds - PFOSs and PFOAs - also turn up in furniture, carpet, and outdoor clothing. They don't naturally degrade. Virtually all Americans have them in their blood, where they can remain for years.

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